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Brenda B (BeBop), PCOS Bio

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I recently read an article in the NY Times magazine about Cushings, and a light bulb went off. I have an appt with an endocrinologist in March, but I’ve been to a renowned large clinic near my home in the early 1990s and was diagnosed with PCOS yet had no cysts on ovaries. I had abdominal striae, rapid wt gain in belly only, facial hair. They also found I had hypertriglyceridema – 1000+ when fasting. They could not put me on estrogen for the PCOS because of the lipid disorder, which they figured was genetic tho I never had any tests to find out why. So I went on Lopid, went on to grad school, shaved and plucked, wondered when the period would come.

I’m 53 now, got married in the mid 90s and we tried for years to have children, finally got pregnant in late 1998 and had a son in 99. Then I got hit with a terrible insomnia, sweating and anxiety and was treated for post partum depression. I did not feel depressed, just could not sleep despite my 9.9 baby sleeping through the night almost immediately. Didn’t sleep the two nights I was in the hospital after delivery. I stopped breastfeeding at 3 weeks and began a tragi-comedy of errors of regular health/mental health treatment, finally Zoloft did the trick as well as Valerian root instead of Ambien (which never worked for me) for sleep. The toughest point was when I hadn’t slept at all for 3 days. But that is another story. Anyway to make this already bad story worse, at 4 months postpartum, my mom died of stage 4 leiomyosarcoma, which she’d had in 1995 in her leg and it had metasticized to her lungs. She was a tough old bird and I think maybe had Cushings come to think back. (And thinking of my family history there may be something there with genetics, ie., MEN, with a sister with uterine fibroids, and two brothers with neurofibroma on their foreheads that were removed). Anyway, she refused all medical treatment after the leg surgery and elected to only have radiation in the leg area and never went to get checked out after that.

My son is now 14 and I’m apparently in menopause. I’ve had the return of the awful insomnia and the rapid heart rate at night. So I’m  back on Zoloft and valerian root immediately and made this endo appt today after reading about cushings here for two weeks.  My other conditions are hypertriglyceridemia (never determined if primary or secondary) for which I take Lovaza and Niacin and it’s down to about 300-400, which is not good. I tried Pravastatin but makes my muscle aches and constantnback aches worse.

In 2005 I had a terrible loose cough that the renowned clinic diagnosed as GERD after being misdiagnosed as asthma for 2 years by the community clinic. I can’t tolerate steroids as they make me an angry insomniac but took them as prescribed when they thought it was asthma. The big clinic diagnosed that as GERD (aciphex immediately worked on the cough) and I was also found to have NAFL (fatty liver), an enlarged spleen, and stil the high triglycerides.

In 2011 I had an uterine polyp (removed) and endometrial hyperplasia for which I get checked every year because I don’t want to/can’t take the progesterone. I would really prefer a hysterectomy to end that but obgyn is reluctant.

This year I’ve had a number of new symptoms: lactose intolerance, all over tendinitis (phy ther prescribed), incontinence and needing to go alot, leg and feet cramps, horrible back aches (member at the massage place), super fatique and muscle weakness (couldn’t even snap down the buckle on my ski boots last weekend and only lasted a couple of hours on the hill, and I love to ski) and blurred vision, eipscleris and early cataracts. I also have suffered from what is diagnosed as vasomotor rhinitis for YEARS, I keep lotion tissue companies in business. It’s been so bad this winter that I went to the doctor this week and was prescribed a steroid. Then I didn’t sleep last night. Oh and if I drink alcohol I get the same rapid heart beat and insomnia too, to add insult to injury. I still have the facial hair despite oh maybe a dozen laser treatments.

Oh, and since my 20s when this all started I’ve always considered myself “round shouldered” which looks to be a buffalo hump. :0

In reading all these stories I am worried that I’ve had Cushings my *entire* life not unlike some other folks here. I don’t trust doctors all that much becuase I had so a horrible time with “postpartum depression” treatrment. I was so angry after that that I spent several years on the board of a women’s reproductive mental health organization fighting to get the Melanie Stokes Act passed. I am too old and tired to do advocacy again but thanks for doing it and being here. I am reading about all you folk fighting for a diagnosis and I fear that I’ll be in the same boat. God bless you and hugs for all. Hang in there. I have. Sometimes barely.

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Laree (Laree), Pituitary Bio

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My Thanksgiving Day was less stressful this year than I thought it might be, because I had my head examined the day before at Johns Hopkins at about 9:30 in the morning.  By 1:30 in the afternoon, my endocrinologist there, a metabolic bone specialist, had emailed me that I was the proud parent of a 0.7mm lesion on the right side of my pituitary gland.  All day Tuesday I had performance anxiety because I feared that after six months of testing every liquid my body could produce for excessive cortisol, I had finally been given the green light to undergo the Holy Grail of tests and have a look-see at the Master Gland.  I feared that I wouldn’t be able to come up with the goods, but I managed to produce, and now I’m being referred to a neurosurgeon.

It’s been a very long process, even though the testing has only been a six month part of it.  In 2001, I broke  my collar bone while playing tennis.  Granted, I fell down, but it’s not like I made a Boris Becker leap for the ball or anything.  Then in 2003, my first stress fracture, followed by another one in 2005.  Then a crushed wrist on another tennis court mishap–my feet got tangled up when I was moving backward, and within a week, I was having my wrist rebuilt with a titanium plate and several screws.  Then there was  the broken tailbone, followed by the upper arm compression fracture suffered while pushing a small car off an ice shelf in Ohio.  And finally the L4 vertebra that I broke loosening the lug nuts on a tire I was changing with my still-healing broken arm.

After each incident, I would ask the doctors what could be causing all these weird bone breaks, and sometimes they would send me off for a dexascan to see if I might have osteoporosis, but the test always said no, and the doctors were always orthopedists of one sort or another.  They would shrug and say that these things happen.  After the upper arm (this past January), and the subsequent dexascan, the ortho told me that the test said I didn’t have osteoporosis, that if I wanted to try to learn more about the bone formation, I should see an endocrinologist, but he didn’t know of one to whom he could refer me.  He did refer me to his colleague to have my osteoarthritic hip replaced.  I’m 53, by the way.  He told me that going to an endocrinologist was likely to yield nothing, and he opined that I was suffering from “Laree Martin syndrome,” if I need for it to have a name.

My gynocologist, who works in the same hospital center as Ortho 1, we now lovingly refer to him as Frick, referred me to an endocrinologist who also practices in the same hospital center.   I got myself hooked up with her, and she very quickly determined that since I had broken not one, but all of the bones that are considered to be typical indicators of osteoporosis, despite multiple dexascans to the contrary, I had osteoporosis.  Shortly thereafter, she discovered excess, but “unimpressive,” levels of cortisol in my system.

Ortho 2, we’ll call him Frack, saw me prior to my hip replacement, and I complained about my back injury the week prior.  He pronounced that I had not broken my vertebra, but he offered to send me for an MRI, if that would make me feel better.  I scheduled the MRI, had it in the evening, called his office in the morning to report that I had gone for the test, as he had asked me to do, and instead of leaving a message, I got put directly through to the doctor.  Turns out that he was wrong, and it is possible to break your L4 vertebra pulling on a lug wrench with a still-healing compressions fracture in your upper arm . . .  if you have osteoporosis.  When I told him that he didn’t have to worry about my bones in general, because I was seeing an endocrinologist for that.  I just needed him to be extra careful not to break anything when implanting the new hip.  I told him that the endo specialist was working me up for Cushing’s, and he told me that I certainly did not have Cushing’s, because I wasn’t 100 pounds overweight and diabetic.

By September, the endo doc concluded that my results were equivocal for Cushing’s, but she encouraged me to go to Johns Hopkins to the metabolic bone specialist, since there wasn’t another good explanation for my osteoporosis, which had by that time been objectively diagnosed with a bone biopsy.  She felt that she had no choice, clinically, but to treat my osteoporosis as post-menopausal in origin, even though my bone breaks began 8 years ahead of my menopausal symptoms.  Off to Johns Hopkins.

The bone specialist took the history, again . . . did some more testing (blood, saliva, urine, again . . . ) and then consulted with the adrenal team, who agreed with her diagnosis of ACTH-dependent Cushing’s disease.  Unfortunately for all of you who read these bios, it’s more complicated than just Cushing’s, because I had bilateral pulmonary emboili and a DVT in my leg when one of my stress fractures had me on non-weightbearing restrictions for six weeks.  That little incident was also considered a fluke, until about six years later when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition that is also considered to be “rare.”  It is a mouthful to say–antiphospholipid antibody syndrome (APS).  It’s main risk is hypercoagulability, and its treatment involves lifelong warfarin (brand name Coumadin), which people mostly call a “blood thinner,” although it doesn’t really act that way.

I feel somehow more than lucky to have two fairly uncommon, fairly complicated conditions with fairly scarey treatment options.  I feel like I need a Fairy Goddoctor to be able to properly manage my surgery and treatment, because of the risks associated with drug interactions with the warfarin, the higher risk of clotting that I already have from the APS, which is apparently compounded by Cushing’s, and my understanding that I’m not supposed to be mixing hormones, including steroids, with the warfarin.  Nevertheless, it was good to know so quickly after the MRI that the result was that I flunked that test as well as I had flunked all the others previously.  I thought I was going to have to stress over that for the entire long weekend, but no.  Instead, I pretty much put it out of my mind until tonight, and now you’re getting the Reader’s Digest version of the last 12 years of my medical experience.

The doctors have exhausted my resilience with all of their certainty, which over the years I relied upon to conclude that I was just clumsy and that my weight struggles with those extra 25 pounds that could pack on in a couple of months, especially when I was recuperating from a fracture, without really changing my diet much, were probably associated with my inconsistent sleep and the fact that I will reach for pizza when I am feeling particularly low.  So when I read here and there about the recovery process after surgery and how difficullt and complicated it can be, I have to admit that my first reaction was that I should quit work, take a year off, spend all my money on travel or whatever I would feel like doing, and then just commit suicide and be done with the whole thing.  And that still has a sense of comfort associated with it when I remind myself of what I’m in for for the next maybe couple of years or more in recovery . . . and possible relapse . . .

But I have a 82 year old mother, and I”m her baby, and I witnessed her sorrow when my brother was killed in a motorcycle accident about 18 months ago, and I wouldn’t put her through that again.  Instead, it’s my intention to take as much time off work as possible after surgery to let myself gather my emotional resources and get over the angry, bruised feeling that I have from both diagnostic processes that have lasted over a decade.  I appreciate that this space is here for newbies like myself to say out loud what most of my friends and family either can’t or don’t want to hear.  It doesn’t really matter so much that anyone is listening; I just need to say it.

Cheers!

Laree (who actually has Cushing’s disease, not Laree Martin’s syndrome)

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Jennifer (Jennifer In Puget Sound), Undiagnosed Bio

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undiagnosed3I’m wondering about my situation. I haven’t been diagnosed with Cushing’s but I had my thyroid removed (Hashimoto’s with goiter, family history of thyroid cancer), concluded menopause, had two car accidents (rear-ended)…all in the space of a few years, around 2003-2006. Up until 2003 (the first car accident,) I was a very energetic, upbeat, even-tempered, fit, active, mother of two, and holder of three part-time jobs including teaching high school. I was 50.

Following the car accidents, I developed chronic disabling low back pain. Following the thyroidectomy I developed all kinds of symptoms involving almost all body systems. I’m now bedridden to housebound for great swaths of time. Up until now I’ve been haunting thyroid and adrenal boards, and plowing my way through endocrinologists, MDs and naturopaths looking for answers.

Starting in 2006, I began experiences episodes I call “tizzies” which have baffled all concerned. They last from 6-8 months, building up, reaching a peak, slowly subsiding. They are extremely debilitating and involve many, many symptoms mental and physical. After six or seven of these, I’m convinced they are episodes of extremely high cortisol and I do have some labs to support that, though they are from alternative type laboratories. The saliva ones take four samples spread throughout the day and the 24-hour urine ones are as they sound.

During a trough I have a saliva lab showing mostly low cortisol values. During a different trough I have 24-hour urine results from which the ND pronounced I had Addison’s-like adrenal function. During a recent peak I have both a saliva and 24-hour urine showing off-the-charts high levels of cortisol. Coming down from that peak, I have saliva results showing cortisol low in the morning moving up to extremely high at night.

 

What do you think?

Jennifer in Puget Sound

 

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Sharon, Undiagnosed Bio

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A Golden Oldie

Hello. My name is Sharon. Im 42 years old from Saskatchewan, Canada. I’ve been lurking on this site for about 3 weeks now, and finally decided to add my story. I appologize now if  I get carried away, but here goes.

As a youngster, I was always a healthy kid, seldom sick. Always active, very athletic. Sports were my life. But I did always have very heavy periods, and painful ones, right from day 1. Doctor said it was Mother Nature, and was told to live with it.

Got married, had 2 children. In between the 2, I had to have my gallbladder removed, unfortunatly it was an unsuccessful surjury. I still get attacks till this day. A hernia operation, 3 months later, a hysterectomy. (due to endemetriosis) a year later, the removal of one of my ovaries. I must admit I never felt right after the hysterectomy, but chalked it up to being in early menopause.

Then a year ago, my husband had to rush me to the ER. My heart was palpatating so fast I could feel it in my ears. A second visit to the ER for more of the same. The Doctor on that visit seemed annoyed, and said, get your thyroid checked. I thought, why not. I’d been suffering from freezing cold hands and feet anyways. Tests came back normal, and after a holter test, they told me my heart had an electrical problem. I was put on pills to regulate it.

At this time, the weight gain started to elevate. Being thin my whole life, I was startled by this. I’ve always eaten healthy. We are not an eat out type of family, I prefer to cook at home. But I decided to become more strict with what I ate. I always walked for excercise, now I added a half hour of core workouts and a half hour of abdominal workouts, 6 days a week. Plus my daughter, who was a health coach at Herbal Majic, put me on a plan.(minus the herbs, just the menu) Weight loss after 2 months was zero. She said, Mom, this plan works, why is it not working for you? Good question.

Im also into alternative methods to maintaining health as well. I purchased a chi machine and far infrared hothouse. While it has helped with my constipation issues and seems to have kept the gallbladder attacks away, it had done nothing to help aid in weight loss. (my friends and family however, have all lost weight in it)

Then more puzzling symptoms appeared. Always covered in bruises, major hair loss. Feeling very tired. And it showed in my face, because I have countless people who tell me I look tired. Yellow eyes from time to time. (could be from the gallbladder issues) This went on for a year . And in that year, I gained 25 lbs, 5 of that was literally overnight. .

Then 2 months ago, my heart medication stopped working. The palpitations are back, as well as a very low heart rate at times. And a shift from freezing cold hands and feet, to not being able to tolerate being hot. Noticed facial hair, my normally straight hair if full of waves and curls. Wake up drenched in sweat (chalked that up to menopause too) While I have maintained my weight at 142 lbs (115-120 lbs is my norm) my belly continues to grow. If it wasn’t for the hysterectomy, I’d swear I was 6 months pregnant. Then I developed a burning pain in my right shoulder. The pain is always there, makes it hard to use my arm at times. Some days its severe, at times during the day, the pain is tolerable. I thought maybe I dislocated something excercising. After a bath I decided to have a look in the mirror, and discovered a hump on my back I never knew I had. I think the hump and shoulder pain are related. I lay on a far infrared heating pad for the pain and it helps. Pain medication does nothing for it.

But not only is my belly growing larger, I noticed my face and neck growing larger as well. And my once smooth skin has turned rough, and red. Acne breakouts that leave scars and even a couple of skin tags on my face. This is all new to me. After careful examination of my neck, I realized I had a few lumps on the right side, and a fatty pad under my right collarbone. And when I press on that fatty pad, I feel the pain in my shoulder. Im exhausted most days now, from the pain, and not sleeping through the night for the past 2 months. I get up 2 to 3 times a night to pee. The other day I noticed that my pee had a really foul odor.(sorry for the TMI)  But it never burns.

Well, the final straw was a rash that appeared on my back. Even though I had a Doctors appointment in a week, I decided to go to the ER as the rash had me freaked out. I made the mistake of telling the nurse I thought I might have cushings. (had been reading the patient bios. It all seemed to add up) She smirked, and took me to another room. The Doctor came in and in a condecending tone, asked me,”what does google have to say about cushings” I should have told him that I leaned more from actual patients who had been diagnosed than I did from google. But we ran through my symptoms. He assured me he thought I didn’t have it. It was probably all menopause. He asked to see my drivers license and told me he thought I looked no different. I asked him if he could feel the lumps in my neck, he said no. (at this point I knew I was wasting my time)

He asked if I had used a heating pad, I lied and told him No.(Because he ticked me off) That may have been my saving grace. He called in another Doctor to have a look at this rash and neither one could figure it out, so he ordered alot of blood work. (odd though, i’d been using this same heating pad for years, and never developed a rash until now) They took blood sugar (a little high) urine, shoulder x ray. I was told to follow up with my Doctor. A week later my Doctor informs me that my blood sugar  in the ER that day was very high. And a large amount of sugar in my urine. He never said a word to me about my urine that day. She told me that one of the blood tests that came back showed abnormal for lupus.

Although she feels I am neither diabetic, or have lupus, it lets her know that there is something definatly not right. But the affirmation I got was from my Doctor who took one look at me and told me I did in fact look different. She could see the lumps without actually touching them. I guess Im not crazy after all.

She set me up with a specialist who told me flat out that he did not think I have cushings, because he sees the worst of the worst. I then showed him a picture of what I normally look like, and took a pause. Well, he’s looking into plenty of things, he has included cushings after all. And assured me if the tests come back normal, we will retest, and retest. Im also scheduled to have a thyoid ultasound in April. I feel like there is now hope that we might find an answer to all of this.

I went from being a shy person, to someone who is outspoken. I felt I needed to be, because I wasn’t being heard. Im angry at being dismissed over the years, and to the Doctor in the ER, i know i must have bruised his ego by telling him what I felt was wrong with me. Although I have alot of things wrong with me, there was nothing wrong with my hearing that day, when I over heard the Doctor and Nurse making fun of me.

I feel for each and everyone of you who’s stories I have read the past 3 weeks, who have had to endure way worse hardships than myself. I read how often you are mistreated by Doctors, and the horrible situations that you have gone through.

It breaks my heart. But each of those stories have given me the courage to fight for myself and for that, I can’t thank you enough, for being so open in sharing your lives with us.

God Bless You All!

Update May 18, 2012

Since my last post, there has been some developements, I’ve had a thyroid ultrasound and cat scan on my neck. They discovered 3 thyroid nodules the size of a pea. My Internist says that it does not explain my symptoms. An incidental finding was arthritis and disc degeneration in my neck. I am also newly diagnosed as active hypoglycemic.

Another 8 lb weight gain in 2 weeks. During those 2 weeks I lost my appetite and got the flu twice in 1 week. I barely ate enough to stay alive in those 2 weeks and still gained weight. My Internist told me he is at a loss. The swelling in my neck is now on my left side as well, and a chunk of thigh muscle in my left leg has all but disappeared. I ended up spending Mother’s Day in the ER. I woke up that morning with a burning pain in my chest and was so dizzy I couldn’t walk a straight line. Stayed dizzy for the next 5 hours. The heart checked out fine. The ER Doctor listened to my history and wished me luck, he had no idea either. I have had 3 Doctors tell me that if it is cushings, “do you know how hard that is to diagnose?” Meaning it’s to hard for them to figure it out, so they won’t bother. My Internist who tested me for cushings took a blood test, and told me that the 24 hour urine test, is old school. We don’t test for it that way anymore. Just a blood test. Of course mine came back normal. All my tests seem to be coming back normal, however I decided to document my findings as NO ONE believes me, except my Primary Doctor. But she knows nothing about cushings, she just sees the physical changes in me. I video taped the yellowing of my eyes, took pictures of my expanding belly, the hump on my back, the loss of muscle in my leg. And these strange muscle twitches that are happening throughout my body. The only thing my Doctor can do for me is to refer me to an Endo, which she is now doing.

My husband grows increasingly frustrated, and has told me that, you’ll be dead before they find out what’s wrong with you. I feel the same way. Knowing my Birth Mother died when she was 49 years old from a massive heart attack, but had the same physical symptoms as me, is scary. I am almost too tired to fight anymore but my Husband and kids keep me going. It’s been a battle, and I am far from winning yet. Will keep you posted.

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Sue, Undiagnosed Bio

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A Golden Oldie

Hello – My name is Sue and I’m 42 years old.  Before Friday, 10/15/10, I had never heard of Cushing’s.  I went in for a physical and had routine blood work done (fasting) and then went in the next day for a cortisol and aldosterone test.

This was a new doctor who didn’t know my history… she noticed my ::blush:: beard, red puffy face, and central obesity and then started asking me some questions.  I stll had no idea why this many questions.  She said that she wanted to get an abdominal ultrasound and wanted me to seen an endocronologist.  Ummmm…. ok… still had no clue. After my cortisol came back at 23, she called me back in and explained that she wanted to get a CAT scan of my abdomen.  I asked her what this was all about, and she said that she thinks that I have Cushing’s.

I have been on blood pressure medication since 1998, and my ‘normal’ bp is 135/90.  At my physical it was 155/100, another warning sign… she doubled my meds and had me come in the next day.  BP was better 145/90, but was still high… so she prescribed an additional medication.

I don’t want to make this too lengthy, but I have several other symptoms too…  I am currently disabled due to depression/anxiety, and I have even gone through ECT treatment twice for it.  I take meds for depression, anxiety, sleep and psychosis.  I have to take a potassium pill every morning to maintain a healthy level and some mornings I can’t even move for a while due to joint pain.  Hot flashes and night sweats are not frequent, and I thought I was going through the beginning of menopause.  At times I would have sweat dripping off of my forehead.  If someone would look at a picture of me and see if maybe I resemble a Cushie??  I am waiting for the appointments, but the more I read about it, the more it sounds like me.  Thank you.


Sue also submitted a second version of her bio:

Hi!  My name is Sue, I am 42 and I live in Central Massachusetts.  During my physical with a new doctor, my blood pressure was found to be high, even though I have been on Hypertensive meds since 1998.  She doubled my dose, and it was still high.  She then put me on an additional medication, and that took it down a little bit. She then noticed my razor stubble on my neck and chin and asked about that.  Prior blood work showed that my cardiac inflammation was 5X’s the “high” limit (2 years ago) and the doctor at the time told me to take 1 adult dose asparin a day.  I had severely low potassium and she told me to take a supplement.  I am 5’5″ and weigh 224 pounds an it’s literally ALL in my stomach and cest and back.  My face is all puffed out and red and splotchy.  I suffer from sleep apnea and I lose my breath if I lay down flat on my back.  I thought I was having hot flashes, because I have been having night sweats and during the day I sometimes get so flush and hot that the sweat literally drips onto the table.  I have rosacea and I flush easily.  I am disabled due to depression/anxiety/psychosis and I have even undergone ECT treatment for it (electroconvulsive therapy-shock treatment)

I was reading some of the bios and started to cry…  I could see me in so many of the stories and pictures.  Could it be possible that all of my issues are related to this disease that I had never even heard of before?  I do not want to be sick, but if it is Cushing’s that I have, I will have hope that I haven’t let myself go. :)  You all seem to be very loving and supporting.  Thank you for being here.

There are other symptoms I have, but these are the most bothersome.  My blood cortisol level came in at 22 and my aldosterone was high also.  I am waiting for an appointment for an abdominal CAT scan and a referral to an endochronologist.

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Amy (spunkybluecat), Pituitary Bio

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A Golden Oldie from July 11, 2011

~~~

Hello, my name is Amy.

I was diagnosed with Cushing’s last November and had surgery to remove the pituitary adenoma in March.

It took me FOREVER (over 3 y) to get a diagnosis. None of my doctor’s would really listen. I was SO frustrated but kept on pushing because I KNEW something wasn’t right. Pre- surgery I had excess hair (facial+), weight gain (abdominal), stertch marks, fatigue, very irregular menstrual cycle…..Now that I’ve had the tumor removed I still have problems.

I’m hoping that some of you will help me to answer those questions/problems. My facial hair has slowed down, I’ve lost over 65 pounds in 3 months, I’m going through menpause now (I’m 36yo), my hair is starting to fall out, I have NO energy/fatigued all the time, some days I wake up OK and others I wake up vomiting or very unsteady like I’m going to pass out if I’m on my feet for too long. I am very depressed.

My life has fallen apart. My marriage is over, I have had to move in with my mother, I am unemployed, and I can’t do the fun things that I should be able to do with my 8yo daughter. I have no friends and my family is not supportive at all. They say I just need to get off my *ss. I’m tired of people blaming depression, laziness, etc. I want my life back.

I need help and don’t know where to turn. I hope that I can learn what I need to do solve these problems and meet some people who can send some sunshine my way.

Marian U (MaidM), Adrenal Bio

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HI!

I had Cushings symptoms for about 20 years (I am 43) before I finally had surgery at NIH on August 29, 2012.  Before 2 years ago, I had never even heard of Cushings.  Without the aid of a very perseptive medical accupuncturist, I would probably still be suffering today.   Perhaps, if I had heard about it sooner, I wouldn’t have suffered for so many years.  My goal is to help as many people as possible in battling this devastating disease.

I am so happy that I have a new chance at a real life! Feel free to contract me.  Below is a piece I wrote before surgery and my stats.

:-) Marian

————————————-

My Experience with Cushing’s Syndrome

The changes came about gradually.  So gradually, that it is very difficult to pin-point exactly when the overall change became larger than the sum of individual changes and thus was something that was difficult to ignore. For my whole life, I was “Marian” and then one day, I was someone else.  I had become someone unrecognizable: the “Not Marian.”

One of my favorite books, “The Tipping Point,” by Malcolm Gladwell, expands on the premise that little changes make a huge difference.  Individually, the changes I experienced were easily explained.  I was tired. I had nighttime hot flashes.  I gained weight. I was moody and forgetful.  My sight was blurry.  I often typed or said the wrong word. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t remove my rings without soaping up my finger first.  One day, I forgot how to roll down my car windows.  I experienced moments of panic where I was driving and couldn’t remember what road I was on or where I was going. When I mentioned any or all of these symptoms in a group of women over forty, I heard a cavalcade of similar stories, usually expanding into an animated discussion centering on menopause and aging.

I also noticed that I stopped getting compliments.  People, except my amazingly supportive husband, just didn’t say that I looked nice or pretty anymore.  I tried not to be vain; I thought that I probably had just reached the point where I aged enough that I no longer was going to get the attention that I used to get.  I had “hit” the proverbial “wall.”

It is easy to look in a mirror and only see a stylized version of yourself.  But, photos are more precise.  For some time, I had noticed something “off” in the photos that were sometimes posted of me on-line.   They just didn’t look like me anymore.  I untagged myself and brushed them off as bad photos with only the vague realization that the “Marian” I thought I was, was no longer me.

My epiphany came in the form of the photos on my work identification cards, taken about three years apart.  Not only do I look like I have aged about ten years — I also look completely different.  My face is much fuller, my features are distorted, my eyes are sunken, my hair is stringy, and my skin is sallow.  I look like a bad photo copy of my former self.

Now, I realize that how I look is a small part of who I am as a person.  However, it is also the part of me that everyone sees first.  I remember being in the dressing room at Target and catching a glimpse of the “Not Marian” in the mirror.  I was astonished at my reflection and cried.

A friend suggested that I just realize that this “Not Marian” is who I am now.  I don’t think that this bad advice; it is just advice that is easy to say, but difficult to follow.  I often compare my sense of futility regarding my desperate attempts to become “Marian” again to Hercules’s labor of cleaning the Aegean Stables.  I exercised four or so times a week.  I went to a diet doctor.  I ate under 1200 calories a day.  I bought new clothes.  I got my nails done.  Despite these efforts, I only saw minor improvements in the way I looked and felt.  I still felt as though I was always wearing a rubber suit over my skin that covered my former self.

In many ways, the diagnosis of Cushing Syndrome was a relief.  Finally, there was an explanation for the way that I felt and, though serious, Cushing’s is generally a completely curable disease.   But, knowing I have Cushing’s presents another problem, when is it appropriate to tell peop

My initial inclination was to tell everyone.   I wanted to explain the difference between the “Marian” you remember and the “Not Marian” that you see now is a result of this rare disease I have.   “It’s not really me!  It’s the Cushing’s.”  I tried it a couple of times with mixed results.

Mostly, people said that they had not noticed a significant change in the way I looked or behaved.  My closer friends were more tolerant, expressed concern, and asked questions.  The reality is that nothing (except maybe vacation recaps) is more uninteresting in light conversation than talking about illnesses and ailments.  And though it was significant to me, the changes were not readily observable.  So, I will try not to talk about it.

I know that my upcoming surgery is not a panacea, though it is nearly impossible not to view it as such.  I have scrolled through hundreds of websites and blogs looking at photos and reading synopses of people before and after treatment.  I have connected with someone who was successfully treated for a Cushing’s syndrome through Cushing’s Support and Research Foundation.  Ultimately, my hope is that the loss of me is only temporary and that through successful treatment of the disease; I can begin to feel like “Marian” again.

STATS

July 2010: MRI at Kaiser showing a pituitary adenoma. High 24 Hour cortisol. Low DHEA.  Low ACTH. Referred to NIH.

Late July 2010:  CT at Kaiser showed “suspicious” tumor on left adrenal. (High HU, e.g. cancer)

Sep 2010: NIH testing.

Nov 2010:  NIH re-read the results of CT and MRI. NO pituitary adenoma and BENIGN tumor on left adrenal.

Dec 2010 – April 2011:  Unable to replicate high cortisol test at NIH. Diagnosed as pseudo Cushings due to stress. Yearly follow up recommended.

April 2012:  Follow up testing at NIH.  Cortisol is high.  CT of adrenal tumor is stable.

June 2012.  Second cortisol at NIH is high.  Diagnosis cyclical Cushings.  Will not operate.  Note that I do not look like clinical Cushings, so that was part of the problem.

July 2012: Bone density loss of 25% in three years confirmed through Kaiser.  I happened to luckily have had a previous bone scan so that they could compare.  The current bone density scan wouldn’t have been enough because I didn’t have osteoporosis yet.

Aug 6, 2012: Referred for surgery on Aug 27.

Aug 26, 2012: Enter NIH.  Surgery postponed but I can’t leave because of the testing!

Aug 29, 2012.  Surgery!  The surgery itself was easy.

Sep 2, 2012:  Left NIH

Returned to work half days Sept 4 and full time Sep 10.

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